CD4+ T helper (Th) clones can be divided into interleukin 2 (IL-2)-secreting Th1 and IL-4-secreting Th2 cells. We show in the present report that these two Th subsets have different activation requirements for lymphokine production and proliferation: namely, cholera toxin (CT) as well as forskolin inhibit T cell receptor (TCR)-mediated IL-2 production and proliferation in Th1 cells, while the same reagents fail to block IL-4 production and proliferation in Th2 cells. In addition, CT and forskolin differentially influence the proto-oncogene mRNA expression in Th1 vs. Th2 cells after stimulation with Con A. Since both reagents lead to elevated levels of intracellular cAMP, it is likely that Th1 and Th2 cells differ in their sensitivity to an increase in cAMP. Our results indicate that the two Th subsets use different transmission signal pathways upon TCR-mediated activation.